Wrapping up the boys' soccer season

Woodsville's David Bazzell blasts a penalty kick in to put his team ahead of Profile earlier this season. James Barrett. (click for larger version)
November 18, 2013
REGION — The Littleton Crusaders boys' soccer team had a tough go of it this season. In A season plagued by injuries and academic suspensions, their young team had difficulty finding it's groove. Despite their tribulations, the Crusaders made the playoffs with a regular season record of 4-11-1, which seeded them 15th in Division IV. All four of the Crusader wins came versus teams seeded below them (#16 Groveton and #19 Canaan-Pittsburg). If the Crusaders were going to make a "splash" in the playoffs, they would first have to knock off the second-seeded Moultonborough Panthers.

Unfortunately for the Crusaders, despite a strong effort in their playoff game versus the Panthers, they were thrown around in a 7-1 rout, ending their season.

Littleton Crusader head coach Jo Gardner had "high hopes" this season as she always looks for her team to "improve each and every game." However, the obstacles on and off the field were too much to handle. Her young Crusaders did show heart and never gave up in a hard fought season. Next season they will bring back a large group of returning athletes including star net minde, Ethan Ellingwood, who displayed the skills of solid goalie and traits of a true leader for his club. There is only one way for the Crusaders to go, and that is up.

Lin-Wood Lumberjacks

For the Lin-Wood Lumberjacks boys' soccer team, "offense would not be a problem" all season. Head coach Tony Drapeau knew he had one of the "top offensive players in the division" this season in Wayne Child. They proved that true as Child helped lead the Lumberjacks to a whopping 57 goals in the regular season. The difficulty the Lumberjacks had was carrying their momentum over and stringing wins together.

It took a little while for the Lumberjacks to get things going as a team, but once they did they were a force to be reckoned with, outscoring their opponents 57-32 in the regular season. Their inconsistencies however, had them with a final regular season record of 7-8-1. Their record was no indication of their skill level and their determination to win games.

When the 12th-seeded Lumberjacks traveled to fifth-seeded Sunapee for their first round playoff match up, the Lumberjacks had upset on their minds. Despite playing a strong game, the Sunapee offense was too much for Lin-Wood to handle as they fell short to the eventual runner-ups, the Sunapee Lakers.

Lisbon Panthers

In what was supposed to be "a rebuilding season," the Lisbon Panthers boys' soccer team shocked the league with a terrific 7-5-4 record at the end of the regular season.

Lisbon head coach Les Poore was "very pleased with how well the team stepped up this season," as the Panther defensive unit was statistically one of the best in the state. Only allowing 21 goals all season long, the Panthers were not only able to play with some of the league's better teams, but they were able to strike fear into them.

Their downfall however was the lack of scoring. With senior forward Jackson Smith netting the vast majority of goals for the Panthers, opposing teams knew who to key in on and did so very effectively.

When the 11th-seeded Panthers reached the playoffs, they would have their work cut out for them from the get go as they were squared off against a very skilled, sixth-seeded Wilton-Lyndeborough club. After a strong match of physical and skilled play, the Panthers were able to upset Wilton with a close 1-0 win.

But the Panthers' work was not done there. After upsetting Wilton, they would then have to beat the third-ranked Derryfield Cougars. The Cougars had been hovering around first place all season long but fell off the pace of the Woodsville Engineers when their season neared its conclusion. But make no mistake, the Cougars, on paper, would be more than a handful for Lisbon.

The Panthers fought hard in their quarterfinal match up but fell just short. The Cougars were able to shut down the offense of the Panthers and pull away with a 2-0 victory, bringing an end to Lisbon's season.

The Panthers played a tight match with a team that would eventually win the Division IV championship just over a week following their game. Not only that, but the young Panthers club gained some very valuable experience to carry over to 2014.

Woodsville Engineers

The Engineers boys' soccer team had a very successful regular season by any standards. Finishing with a regular season record of 14-1-1, the Engineers were in a tight battle for first place in Division IV all season and they were able to come away with the top seed at season's end.

During the regular season, the Engineers were able to dominate most of the teams that they had faced in the northern section Division IV as well as Blue Mountain Union of Vermont's Division III, outscoring their opponents 57-14. In the regular season they were also able to string together a three-game winning streak to start the season, a five-game winning streak following a tie to Lisbon, and a six-game winning streak following a 4-1 loss to Gorham.

Going into the playoffs, the Engineers seemed poised to roll to the finals. In the preliminary round the top-ranked Engineers were paired with 16th seed Concord Christian that ended in a 6-0 rout of the southern team. In round two, the Engineers would face the only team to defeat them in the regular season, the Gorham Huskies. In that match, the Engineers were able to exact revenge as they snuck by the ninth-seeded Huskies, 1-0. The semifinals match would pit the Engineers against a very tough customer in the fifth-seeded Sunapee Lakers. The Lakers were able to upset the Engineers is a game where the Engineers were unable to maintain much possession of the ball as they lost 2-1 in a strong effort in the bright lights at Laconia High School.

While the semifinal exit from the playoffs was a difficult pill to swallow, the Engineers displayed a strong prowess for the goal and dominated nearly every team they faced in the regular season, indicating a bright future ahead.

Profile Patriots

The Profile Patriots boys' soccer team was one of the most entertaining stories in Division IV boys' soccer this season. After starting the season in lackluster fashion, head coach Dave Robinson was able to right the reigns and steer the Patriots club to a strong 8-5-3 record. The Patriots were a solid team that won games that they were "supposed" to win, a mark a strong team, and they played up to teams above them in the standings. The Patriots' difficulty this season was stinging together wins. With no streak lasting more than two wins, the Patriots were still able to outscore their opponents, 31-21. So when playoff time came around, the 10th-seeded Patriots were flying under the radar.

In round one of the playoffs, the Patriots played versus the seventh-ranked Newmarket Mules. In what on paper should have been a loss for the Patriots, the boys were able to play a solid all-around game and shut the Mules out, 2-0 to earn the upset win.

Round two of the playoffs would not be any easier, in fact, it was the highest ranked opponent they could possibly face on their side of the bracket before the finals; the second-seeded Moultonborough Panthers.

The Patriots played a solid game, "ignoring the rank of the Panthers" on their way to hard fought, 3-2 victory in a massive upset.

Then, in the bright lights and big stage of the semifinals that took place at Laconia High School, the Patriots took on the third-seeded Derryfield Cougars. In another game that the Patriots "should not even be at" as some cocky Cougars fans screamed onto the field, the Patriots played the game of their lives to this point. At the end of 100 minutes the score was tied, 0-0. To make things more interesting, the first round of penalty kicks solved nothing. The Patriots were able to hang on until the sudden death penalty kicks when they were barely ousted by the Cougars, who would go on in the next round to defeat Sunapee to be crowned champs of Division IV.

The Patriots were considered the "Cinderella" story of the season, however they proved at each and every game they deserved to be at each level they reached. They were also only one goal away from going to the finals as the 10th-seeded team.

Undoubtedly there is a very large light burning for the Profile Patriots heading into 2014. They will look to make the next step and get to the finals.

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